Opposition leader Karu Jayasuriya last week wrote an angry statement, an outburst actually, on uprisings in north Africa and similar forebodings in Sri Lanka. He said leaders ``intoxicated with their seemingly unchallenged hold on power, (should) open their eyes to the reality of what is happening in countries where representation has been repeatedly distorted by corrupt and fraudulent elections.’’
The statement came hours after a group of opposition lawmakers demanding former army chief Sarath Fonseka’s release was attacked by armed thugs on Independence Day.
"We urge the government to look at what is happening in the Arab world and learn a lesson,’’ Jayasuriya wrote.
The government has maintained a stony silence on the uprisings. But as much as the opposition want to see a `water lily’ revolution, there’s unlikely to be one. Even if reasons for which Tunisian and Egyptian protesters gathered at the nearest town square exist here as well: perception of corruption and blatant nepotism among the powerful, an exceptionally high cost of living, curbing of individual rights and an unhealthy disregard for that crucial right to oppose. Many feel that democratic institutions like the election commission have eroded. Additionally, Sri Lanka has an oversized army and a star general in jail. And, well, Colombo also has the Galle Face Green, a large open space on the sea front with cannons pointing to the sea.
But all these are not enough to light up a revolutionary bonfire, especially just after years of war. It’s not even two years since the separatist war that paralysed parts of the country and weakened the whole of it ended. Remember, there were two Marxist rebellions as well.
Now, there is hope for a peace dividend. Mahinda Rajapaksa has been elected twice as President; second time probably on a gratitude vote. He is not seen as a US puppet unlike the Egyptian ruler lording over an overwhelmingly Muslim country; he is seen as someone who stands up to the West.
So, what Sri Lanka needs is clean, humane and accountable governance and post-war reconciliation, maybe not a revolution. Rajapaksa and his all-powerful presidency have the controversial mandate to carry it out. And for assurances on mortality, he could always read PB Shelley’s short poem, ‘Ozymandias of Egypt’ in spare time.